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1/24/2014
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Facebook Predicts Princeton Won't Exist In 2021

Facebook addressed Princeton's prediction of the social network's sudden demise with its own amusing findings using the same methodology.

7 Facebook Wishes For 2014
7 Facebook Wishes for 2014
(Click image for larger view and slideshow.)

Uh oh. Princeton University -- and Planet Earth, for that matter -- are in danger of disappearing.

At least that's what Facebook determined by applying the same methods Princeton used in a questionable report published last week.

Princeton's report, from the university's Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, used Google search data to predict engagement trends, ultimately concluding that Facebook was set to lose a whopping 80% of users by 2017. Such a methodology was applicable to Facebook because, the report determined, Facebook is like an infectious disease. (We'll let you be the judge of that.)

The report read:

The application of disease-like dynamics to [online social network] adoption follows intuitively, since users typically join OSNs because their friends have already joined. The precedent for applying epidemiological models to non-disease applications has previously been set by research focused on modeling the spread of less-tangible applications such as ideas. Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models. Again, this follows intuitively, as ideas are spread through communicative contact between different people who share ideas with each other. Idea manifesters ultimately lose interest with the idea and no longer manifest the idea, which can be thought of as the gain of "immunity" to the idea.

[Get a grip on your Facebook account. Read 10 Most Misunderstood Facebook Privacy Facts.]

The diseased social network responded to these dubious findings on Thursday in a note that explained how it used Princeton's research methods to discover its own alarming trend about the university:

Using the same robust methodology featured in [Princeton's] paper, we attempted to find out more about this "Princeton University" -- and you won't believe what we found! In keeping with the scientific principle "correlation equals causation," our research unequivocally demonstrated that Princeton may be in danger of disappearing entirely.

To prove this, Facebook first analyzed Princeton's Facebook page likes and compared them to those of Harvard and Yale. The results were not good.

Then it used data from Google Scholar, which revealed that the percentage of "Princeton" papers in journals has declined dramatically since 2009.

Lastly, Facebook used Google Trends to draw conclusions that spelled more bad news for the university.

This trend suggests that Princeton will only have half its current enrollment by 2018, and by 2021 it will have no students at all, agreeing with the previous graph of scholarly scholarliness. Based on our robust scientific analysis, future generations will only be able to imagine this now-rubble institution that once walked this earth.

Speaking of Earth, perhaps it's time to colonize the moon. Facebook determined that our planet is also in grave danger, as Google Trends for "air" have been declining steadily. It predicts that by the year 2060, there will be no air left.

Touché, Facebook.

Senior editor Kristin Burnham covers social media, social business, and IT leadership and careers for InformationWeek.com. Contact her at Kristin.Burnham@ubm.com or follow her on Twitter: @kmburnham.

Can the trendy tech strategy of DevOps really bring peace between developers and IT operations -- and deliver faster, more reliable app creation and delivery? Also in the DevOps Challenge issue of InformationWeek: Execs charting digital business strategies can't afford to take Internet connectivity for granted.

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ANON1249910196962
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ANON1249910196962,
User Rank: Strategist
1/26/2014 | 11:15:27 AM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
Well beyond the lies, dammed lies and statistics concept, I am more inclined to belived Facebook will meet an alien space probe and merger with it to become a higher life form.
Shane M. O'Neill
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Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Author
1/24/2014 | 6:52:07 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
This is funny. Good for Facebook. I had no idea they had a sense of humor. 

So the Airpocalypse hits in 2060 huh. Thankfully I'll be long-dead by then.
aweyrother
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aweyrother,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 5:21:03 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
>Maybe if Facebook figures out how to charge each of its users $40,170 per year, plus $13,080 for a room and meals, it will be able to match Princeton's longevity.

Though funny, your statement suggests that the issue here concerns facebook's supposed and inherent inability to bring in revenue versus Princeton. Your claim is that Princeton will be around longer than facebook because Princeton can charge a lot for its services and that facebook cannot. I think facebook brought in something like $4 billion last year. I suspect that is at least twice what Princeton brought in for the same time period. No. The issue here largely concerns structure and culture. Facebook's response to this study is essentially of the same species as its response to its user base. 
aweyrother
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aweyrother,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 4:31:02 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
I do not think facebook proved the uselessness of statistics. They merely abused statistics in their rejection of an appropriately executed study. Princeton does not claim that facebook will go out of business in three years. It may happen, though it is highly unlikely, that facebook will act to reverse the conditions that now plague its future. Princeton is making the case that should facebook fail to alter its course it will lose 800 million users in three years. The study judges the sea-worthiness of facebook as it exists today.

That will sound ridiculous only until we realize that there are many superior social media outlets already online, and that they are already taking market share from facebook, and that technology is shifting such that many other outlets will pile on in the very near future. When we also consider how simple it is to lose a user (a user may simply stop updating his or her profile, since they are using something else- no fuss no muss), the idea of losing 200 million users in a year becomes not so far-fetched.

I suspect in the last year facebook has seen at least 200 million newly dead accounts in its database. And facebook seems to be responding to the issue with gimmicks, thereby avoiding the fundamental problems that are responsible for its impending demise. Facebook, appears to have cut a deal with Huffpost, for example, in which the latter now forces new users to create facebook accounts. I scarcely think any of those accounts will remain active for long, if at all.
Thomas Claburn
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Thomas Claburn,
User Rank: Author
1/24/2014 | 4:24:22 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
>I'm willing to bet that Princeton will be around MUCH longer than will Facebook.

Maybe if Facebook figures out how to charge each of its users $40,170 per year, plus $13,080 for a room and meals, it will be able to match Princeton's longevity.
Kristin Burnham
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Kristin Burnham,
User Rank: Author
1/24/2014 | 3:12:03 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
You really think Facebook will lose more than 800 million users in 3 years? In using the same methodology Princeton did, it was proving the point that statistics can be used to confirm pretty much any theory -- whether it's that the air supply on earth will run out or the most popular website will lose 80% of its users.
DanB491
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DanB491,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 2:46:52 PM
Re: Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
I'm willing to bet that Princeton will be around MUCH longer than will Facebook.
aweyrother
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aweyrother,
User Rank: Apprentice
1/24/2014 | 2:39:32 PM
Facebook's Rejoinder is Flawed
Facebook is not particularly clever here. Unlike the Princeton's study, facebook's "study" is based on severely flawed assumptions. Facebook merely used classes of data against Princeton that are not at all relevant to Princeton-- data classes that are highly relevant to facebook. I think Princeton is bang on. Facebook is already in serious decline, and innovations outside of facebook will continue to erode its user base.
ukjb
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ukjb,
User Rank: Strategist
1/24/2014 | 1:56:41 PM
facebook is getting worse and worse every day
there's a tiny difference between determining life expecetancy based on popularity of a social networking site (who's existence is based solely on popularty) and a university who's always in high demand. Much less a naturally regenerating resource. But you know... facebook sucks. can't even keep obvious spam off it's system. Don't even care to do anything about it. says a lot about their leadership
David F. Carr
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David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
1/24/2014 | 1:14:12 PM
Re: Statistics...and Darn Lies
I'm worried about that air thing, though.
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